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Evaluation 2022 New Actors Working Group Week: Gender Lens Investors: Invest Resources to Build Capacity and Apply a Gender Lens on Impact Measurement and Management by Yaquta Kanchwala Fatehi

My name is Yaquta Kanchwala Fatehi, and I am a program manager on the Performance Measurement and Improvement team at the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan (WDI). 

From March 2020 through June 2022, I led a research project with the G-SEARCh consortium, a group of six impact investors – AlphaMundi Foundation, Acumen, AHL Venture Partners, Root Capital, SEAF and Shell Foundation – managing over $700 million, to measure and understand the business and social outcomes of gender-smart technical assistance (TA) engagements with 21 portfolio companies (our sample). This kind of post-investment support that intentionally integrates gender equality into business operations is a newer strategy of gender lens investing – an approach where gender is applied to traditional impact investing to gain higher returns while improving gender equality in society (GIIN). 

I worked closely with the investors, the companies’ management teams, and Value for Women – a TA implementation partner for several companies in the sample – to identify potential benefits and costs of such TA. For the five case studies, I co-developed indicators with these stakeholders to assess the success of the gender-inclusive practice such as mentoring middle managers, training sales agents or farmers, or marketing to women, based on its theory of change. I also disaggregated both data collection and analysis by gender to better understand the behavior and experiences of women and the impacts on them versus men. Typically disaggregation is deprioritized or ignored due to a lack of resources or bias, but it is critical to developing gender-based insights to improve TA design and implementation in real time for greater impact. 

During the data collection phase, it is essential to include women respondents and enumerators and to create a safe atmosphere for them to converse. Women respondents are more comfortable sharing sensitive topics with women enumerators, especially on gender based violence or role in decision making; male heads of households may view male enumerators with distrust; women respondents may feel like they must share “a good answer” rather than an honest response. These are just some of the factors we had to manage in order to collect accurate data. For example, many women in low and middle-income countries share a cell phone with their male head of household. So, during our phone-based surveys, our enumerators shared the questions in advance and read a script to encourage men to share the phone with their wives to hear the latter’s point of view. Applying a gender lens to your research and data collection strategy does take more resources, but is necessary to capture the often forgotten voices of women.   

For our larger research goals, I asked companies to provide the business, financial, and social outcomes data that went beyond counting women. I also requested detailed costs of conducting the TA activities to analyze the net benefits of the TA. However, in most cases, companies did not have the resources – monetary, technical, human, and time – to conduct this targeted in-depth measurement. Companies are continuously juggling many priorities, and often, impact measurement and management are deprioritized during budget allocation. Funders and investors need to align reporting indicators with the company’s operations metrics; additionally, they need to support researchers to transfer skills to companies to enable sustainable data collection instead of relying on researchers to collect primary data.  

Rad Resources

We recently released our full product suite capturing insights and lessons, which included a final report, five case studies, surveys, and suggested indicators. We also developed a blog post summarizing findings!

We thank our funders: International Development Research Centre and United States Agency for International Development.

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